Jessa Crispin’s book Why I am Not A Feminist is getting attention in some circles for its critique of modern feminism. She castigates women whose definition of feminism is to watch a Beyonce video, and categorizes this as shallow and lazy. “Get up and do something” is the message of her book, but women in the West are seem to be a loss as to what that something is. Meanwhile, women in the East are still fighting the battles that first and second wave feminists fought in the West. In some places women cannot vote, they cannot go to school, they are subjected to violence simply because they are women.
More often, they suffer without violence.
Here’s a newspaper article on India’s “Water Wives” – a phenomenon where men are marrying multiple wives just to have someone to fetch water. They are unpaid labor, the result of drought conditions in India’s Mahrashtra state. How can Western or white feminism possibly help these women?
Feminism may not build them water pipes or tanks. But feminism is the way of thinking that says, this isn’t fair. Women are not water pipes. Women deserve better. And feminism is the force that inspires people to strategize ways out of the situation, and make the world better for women. Feminism is the force that lets you know, out in the UK or the US, that this situation exists for women in another country. Feminism connects you, as a woman, to these women, so that you are motivated to perhaps donate money to an organization on the ground that is helping them to change.
Feminism is a beautiful concept: equality for women, justice for women, laws that treat women equally to men, punish violence against women. How can these be outdated concepts? How can they be unnecessary? Feminism is the movement that agitates for all these things.
But women all over the world still badly need equality. In a world where women are a commodity, even feminism was bound to become a commodity. And that’s just another trick of the patriarchy.